A new survey from UNISON has revealed that more than 70% of healthcare assistants have been the victim of aggression and violence at work.

The survey of 1,200 staff in the sector showed that more than 40% had considered leaving the profession over the past year, while 85% of respondents felt that staffing levels had become insufficient over the past year as a result of Government spending cuts. In contrast, 11% believed that staffing levels were adequate in their clinical area.

In addition to these ‘shocking’ figures, 13% of those who had been the victim of violence at work had been threatened with a weapon, while nearly a fifth had been the victim of an assault that required medical assistance or first aid.

Commenting on the survey results, Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said:

“This survey illustrates the sometimes grim reality for healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners, whose already challenging job is made harder by inadequate staffing and the threat of aggression and violence.

“HCAs and APs provide a fundamental care to some of the most vulnerable patients, yet what we are seeing is that they do not feel valued by their employers, and even less so by the government, whose cuts agenda is placing them, and professionals across the health service, under enormous pressure.

“When four in ten HCAs are considering leaving the profession, something is very wrong. This survey is demonstrating the real impact of Government cuts – demoralised staff who are trying to deliver the best possible care they can in ever more difficult circumstances.”

Christina McAnea concluded:

“It is time for the government to think again about the damage that its demand for £20bn in so called ‘efficiency savings’ is having on the NHS. Cuts aren’t working, and if these vital professionals are depleted even more, the impact on patient care will be enormous.”

In response to the findings, Health Minister Anna Soubry, said:

“It is simply wrong to suggest we have cut NHS funding. We are investing an extra £12.5bn into the health services by 2015. Violence and aggression towards NHS staff is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Staff should be able to carry out their work without fear of violence.

“The local NHS is working with police to clamp down on this type of behaviour and ensure that the NHS is a safe place to work. The NHS constitution puts violence against staff as a key issue, as set out earlier this month.”